Page 7, 11th February 1977

11th February 1977
Page 7
Page 7, 11th February 1977 — Oxford Jesuits honour

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Locations: Rome, London, Winchester, Oxford


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Oxford Jesuits honour

Fr Martin D'Arcy By Patrick O'Donovan A MEMORIAL to the late Fr Martin D'Arcy is being designed by his brother Jesuits at Oxford. It is to be one of those quiet things, like the Order of Merit, which are treasured for their very lack of flamboyance. They are finer than bronze and they happen to very few and very seldom out of love as well as awe.

They want to endow an annual lectureship at Oxford in his name. It is at present designed to be given as a series of lectures on a selected subject and the lectures will be given with the approval and co-operation of the proper university department.

They may be on anything from biology to philosophy. But then Jesuits have taken all knowledge to be their province, from astronomy to archaeology, from history to architecture.

The lectures will have a Christian background but will not be propaganda. They will be given within the framework of a university conditioned to be sceptical and suspicious. The first lecturer will probably be Fr Copleston, SJ. But they will not all be Jesuits.

As a writer, Fr D'Arcy did not reach the creative or speculative peaks. And yet he left behind him this unparalleled reputation. In the Oxford chaplaincy for the Catholic undergraduates they said another Requiem for him last week. The Mass was offered in the chapel, in a setting that is as severe as the bottom of a swimming bath.

They had got out some of the treasures which Fr D'Arcy seemed to attract to himself. At the celebration four priests wore rich, silk-embroidered vestments, at least early 18th century the Sort of things great families kept locked away for great feasts and used with a sort of proud discretion so that the neighbours would not be offended by a too public display of papacy.

The priests were from the rich array of Catholic halls of study at Oxford Benedictine, Dominican and Jesuit. And that's not starting on the nuns

The Master of Campion Hall, the Jesuit House of Studies at Oxford, presided. He wore a chasuble made out of Fr D'Arcy's mother's mantilla. The result was a black net on white. It was eccentric perhaps, but then so was Fr D'Arcy in a properly English sort of way. It is foolish to talk about the quality of a Mass, as if it were a performance. But now that the rubrics and words of this occasion are sometimes the subject of pretty ugly controvery, here was an unhurried and decorous Mass which made riveting sense of the English. Sonic young Jesuits in a gallery sang the usual bits in Latin which Fr D'Arcy would much have liked and the congregation, who seemed still to remember, joined in. After the Gospel, Lord Hailsham spoke to the grave and noticeably mature congregation. Now Lord Hailsham has the public image of a rumbustuous politician. He rings bells, he bathes in cold seas, he wears lace-up boots, he sometimes rides a bicycle, he tends to rough up his opponents on television.

He was said to interrupt bores in the House of Lords, sotto voce, from the woolsack when he was Lord Chancellor. But this was something else.

Lord Hailsham spoke gently and quietly from a manuscript. He wore his university gown and leaned on a stick. He met Fr D'Arcy when he (Quintin Hogg then) was an undergraduate and had been asked to dine at the old Campion Hall.

He thought that the Jesuits had designs on his soul. In fact the Master of the house had asked him so that the Jesuit students who had lived hard and sheltered lives should get to meet non-Catholic undergraduates.

Quintin accepted rather nervously, for he had naturally heard about Jesuits. He got on well with Tom Corbishley and found Martin D'Arcy rather sinister. They had not yet been ordained.

Lord Hailsham remained a close, almost spiritual friend of Fr D'Arcy for the rest of the priest's life. Hailsham did not, of course, become a Catholic and that had nothing to do with his being Lord Chancellor.

(The Lord Chancellor is said to be the only person, apart from the Monarch, who is still forbidden to be a Catholic.) He said Fr D'Arcy helped bring him back to the love of God and that he often sought his advice. It was good to hear a fine intellect working not in competition or emulation but simply in love.

A simple old martyr

WOBURN is the most successful stately home, the most public house in the kingdom. It is living proof that aristocrats are as good as anyone at exploiting what they happen to have, as apt to make money and to survive as any.

They are also the English,

not the Irish adept at hanging on to it. The Russets of Woburn Abbey are evidence of the worldly good that can come out of spiritual evil.

Recently the parish priest of Woburn Sands sent me a history of his parish. It was started in 1926. It is a usual story of struggle and return, begun in the clubroom of a pubhotel, Mass said with a touch of beer in the air, an altar dressed on a trestle table.

With the history came a leaflet about the last Abbot of Woburn Abbey. He was hanged in front of his abbey, from an oak tree, with two of his monks.

The Abbot was Robert Hobbes. The monks were Dom Laurence Bloneham or Peck and Dom Ralph Woburn or Barnes.

The Abbot never got the recognition given to other hanged Benedictines. He was an old man, in pain, and sounds gentle, bewildered and pleasantly dotty.

He heard of the execution of the Carthusian monks who were the first to die. In Chapter, he told his monks never to surrender their monastery or discard their habit.

He talked of the Pope when he should have said Bishop of Rome. He objected to cutting a reference to the Pope out of a Mass book. He prattled about King Henry's claims to supremacy in front of disaffected monks.

He said: "Bretheren, this is a parlous time. Such a scourge

was never heard with Christ's

Passion". He was ordered to give up all the Papal Bulls he had; he had them copied before he handed them in, believing that Ilenry would revert to his former loyalty. But they hanged the poor man and he almost disappeared from mortal sight.

Winchester face-lift

THE old Gothic cathedrals are like the job of painting the Forth Bridge. As soon as one programme of restoration has been completed, the Dean and Chapter have to start thinking about the next. Nothing is ever really finished.

Monks, at the Reformation, were dismissed as a lazy lot. 1 think their life must have been unendurable by modern standards. There was no privacy. There was a lot of fasting. They were perishing cold most of the time. That is why they wore such voluminous cowls and their betters wore fur.

But the old stalls, 14th century, are still there in Winchester. Still with their tip-up seats with a misericord on which a monk could "recline" rest his bottom while he chanted the psalms that he must have known by heart.

The Cathedral architect has wonderfully restored these. She is Miss Corinne Wilson. She happens to be a Catholic, though that has literally and rightly caused no comment. She has taken away some of the Victorian benches. She has stripped off paint from the medieval wood.

If the monks came back they would be delighted. They would be dazzled at dawn by the new lighting. They would nod off' deliciously in the small amount of central heating she has installed.

Mass discipline to continue

WHAT sort of simpletons do They think the People of God are? Existing canon law allows the private celebration of Mass for the repose of the soul of people who are known to have died not in full communion with the Catholic Church. Public celebration is not allowed.

The Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine" of the Faith (still the Holy Office at heart), has decreed that this discipline must continue. They say that this prohibition is made out of respect for the consciences of those who, living, did not profess the Faith.

Bishops (the Ordinary to Them) can, however, allow a public Mass if the relatives, friends or subjects of the dead ask for it and the bishop decides that no scandal will be caused by such a Mass. The name of the dead person may not, however, be mentioned in the Eucharistic Prayer.

And yet the English and Welsh hierarchy ask parishes to say Mass, publicly, on a Sunday on the occasion of the Queen's Jubilee. Why cannot this be done for the deceased good Anglican husband of a good Catholic woman? She would be comforted and he even in life would not have objected.

And who but Pharisees would be scandalised by the Church squandering its blessings in charity? And what is the difference between being alive and in jubilee and in being dead and in need?

Concession on women's hats

IF YOU are a woman and wear a hat to church in England, you are either a stickler for the old proprieties or a Protestant. If you wear a veil to cover your head, you will look pleasing and very like a lady but are likely to be an old-fashioned sort of Catholic who mourns the very occurrence of the Second Vatican Council.

The Vatican spent 5,000 words recently on saying women could not be priestsa decision which, I think, will one day be changed. But I am not putting any money on it because I may not be around to collect.

In its Declaration on the Question of the Admission of Women to the Ministerial Priesthood, the Congregation dropped an aside as if to excuse its basic discourtesy.

The Congregation said that women would no longer have to wear a veil on their heads in church. (1 Cor 11: 2-16). But just in case they be thought to have gone too far, they also said that some parishes or dioceses may ask women to cover.

An American Catholic news agency said that women in church would no longer have to wear "handkerchiefs, chapel veils, beanies, stocking caps, chapeaux or Kleenex". I wonder if they will hear of the new ruling at St Peter's in Rome, where they have appalling policemen to keep out improperly dressed females.

Aid for actors in trouble

I HEAR and that is the way gossip columnists sometimes choose to start their less noble paragraphs that there arc an awful lot of Catholics in the acting profession.

There are also a large number in journalism who ought to be Catholics and disproportionately. few Catholicspractising or ought-to-be in politics. Anyway, I hear at second

hand from that excellent actor, Mr Kenneth More, who is president of an intriguing philanthropic society. This is the Royal General Theatrical Fund Association.

It exists to help elderly actors and actresses who are in some sort of special need. It actually encourages such people to write in dignity to the offices of the Fund at No 11 Garrick Street in London.

It would be best if those who write in really were actors in the sort of trouble that sometimes attends that precarious profession. Such people can here be sure of a sympathetic hearing.

I am entirely in favour of private, even of indiscriminate charity. The State can be seen to be unable wholly to cope.

And what if they do use the new bath to keep the coals in? (That must have been a very old excuse for keeping your pockets buttoned. No one, or almost no one, gets to use coal any more.) And I've always objected to the objection: "If you give him money he'll only spend it on drink". Why shouldn't he?

Anyway here is a fund to help those who choose a life which, financially, rewards richly only a few. But I do hope that I do not start a rivulet of begging letters.

An American guru

PROFESSOR Marshall McLuhan of the University of Toronto used to be a universal guru. What he said may not have been understood, but it was widely and frequently quoted.

He wrote a book called "The

Medium is the Message" in which I think he said that it is not what you say that matters but how you say or communicate it.

He fell rather silent during the bitterness of the student rebellion a few years ago. He was one of the top heroes of the insurgents at Berkeley, California. Some official people called him a Communist. He recently talked about the Church. He is a professor of English. He said that the opportunities for the survival of the Catholic Church "are a heck of a lot better than those of the United States or any other secular institution."

Himself, he became a Catholic in his twenties. He .would like a return to the preaching of hell fire and to elegant ecclesiastical costume.

He thinks the Church is becoming too accommodating. Rock music in the liturgy he finds ineffective. Of his own family he said. "I raised a family of six kids in the 50s and 60s and they all left the Church except one ... Maybe some will come back some day."

The degree of literacy in the Church "is not much, that is, within the hierarchy. At present, the levels of culture in the Catholic Church are on the Readers' Digest level! But that doesn't mean great danger. It's just a bit of a disgrace, like having one's fly open in public.

"You don't come into the Church through ideas and concepts, and you cannot leave by mere disagreement. It has to be a loss of faith, a loss of participation. You can tell: when people leave the Church, they have quit praying." The Professor is certainly an honest man, but he was never any guru of mine.

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